Updated 05/08/2018 at 7:22pm
By Jay Luster
AF Insider: Why did you choose to sell the Bucks
TV: I wasn’t interested in being back in Vermont for the winter. It was really tough for my family the year before. It (arena football) is not just March through June, it’s also October through March preparing. My wife and I live in Florida so it was tough over the winter. I got the opportunity to sell the team to two guys who were in the Massachusetts area and they were in talks with the league about putting a team in Massachusetts or southern New Hampshire and apparently they hadn’t had any luck finding an arena. We had some conversations and they wanted to buy the Bucks so we entered into a purchase agreement sometime around October. There was a payment structure that was put in place and I was going to get one-third of the ticket sales for the next three years as a part of the deal. We signed the contract and 30 days later they closed the doors and told the arena they weren’t going to play. They hurt a lot of people’s feelings up there and burned several sponsors and it (the sale) burned me out of the ticket sales portion of it for the next three years. It was a tough deal all around.
AF Insider: There were allegations that there was supposed to be money in bank accounts that they were counting on to run the team but that money was gone.
TV: No. If you’re buying a business or a team it doesn’t come with a bunch of cash in the bank. There are obviously two sides to every story and it’s usually somewhere down the middle, that isn’t exactly what happened. I am in the process right now, my attorney in Florida is going to partner with a firm in Vermont because the corporation was in Vermont. We’re going to be filing a lawsuit against Tom Sturgis and Kyle Jennings. All of my research into these guys shows they are frauds. All of the bank statements they showed us, his business worth two million dollars I think is complete BS. Kyle lives in an apartment and Tom lives in a single-wide trailer. My chance of recovering anything is probably close to nil, but you know what? At this point, it’s about making a point and showing people I was in the right.
AF Insider: The next thing was the announcement you were parting ways with the AAL. The announcement from the league was the typical vaguely worded letter; the AAL announces the departure of Tim Viens, it was a mutual decision and we wish him well in his future endeavors. Obviously, there’s more to the story, would you mind sharing your side of it?
TV: The AAL was a merger between Can-Am football, which I owned and the Arena Pro Developmental League (APF) which was owned by Tony Zefiretto and Jack Bowman. They drove up and met me in Vermont and we talked about me having the northern teams and they had the southern teams and if we got together we could do something really cool on the east coast. It sounded like a great idea and I told them I liked it. Originally it was going to be a 50/50 split. I was going to own 50% and Jack and Tony would own 50%. I really hit it off with Jack Bowman, I think he’s a really good guy, really nice guy, I can’t say enough nice things about Jack, he’s a really good guy, at the time I said, you know what guys? There’s three of us, so let’s just go ahead and split it evenly 3 ways, a third, a third, and a third. I’m not greedy, I’m not in this to make money, I want to build something that’s cool for everybody involved so I gave up 50% to be a one-third owner. Jack became the president, Tony became the CEO, and I became the CFO, Chief Financial Officer, which is all just titles because it was a three-way ownership. We started building and we got a little momentum and more and more teams came over. I was the one who helped Gregg Fornario, the owner of the Richmond Roughriders get back involved. Tony had a relationship with Barbara Spigner, the owner of the Cape Fear Heroes. Once he got them to come that brought the Torch and Upstate. There was this kind of domino effect and it was really cool. We made a mutual effort to get the High Country Grizzlies involved. Everything was fantastic and on coarse to do really well. Ok, so the league dues for a team is $5000.00, and at that time there was, I think, 13 teams in the league. Sometime around mid-November, I had conversations with Jack, we spoke pretty much every day at that point, and I asked him what the deal was with the finances? He said Tony was handling it all. I said OK, but don’t you think one of us should be on the bank account? We didn’t know what was coming in or going out and he said yeah, absolutely. I started emailing Tony asking to be put on the bank account. I’m listed as CFO and I want to know about the financials of the league. I emailed Tony about once a week for around two months and never got a response. When I asked Jack about it he said Tony was going to do it but nothing ever happened. It made me feel very uncomfortable. Obviously, there was no communication between him and me and he wasn’t disclosing anything and I’m not going to be part of an organization or a company without knowing what’s going on. It’s a liability to me personally and I didn’t feel comfortable with it. At the end I demanded to have the stuff so I could know what was going on and nothing ever came of it. I could have filed a civil suit because it’s not criminal and I didn’t want to deal with that headache so I basically just resigned as CFO and separated myself from the league. I don’t do business like that.
AF Insider: When I spoke with Jack Bowman about this not long ago, he wouldn’t really talk about it much beyond the announcement of your departure. He suggested you might have wanted to spend more time concentrating on NASCAR and the Havoc?
TV: No, that had nothing to do with it. I separated myself from the corporation because there was zero communication from Tony and like I said I had no issues with Jack he was just caught in the middle. So no, it had nothing to do with that. It’s that Tony is a stubborn guy who makes decisions his way. I felt he made a lot of poor decisions about bringing in some teams that I wasn’t comfortable with. He was the one who agreed with Tom and Kyle for the Boston market and that eventually screwed me on that deal as well. So I didn’t agree with many of the decisions he was making on the league side, but the main problem was the financials.
AF Insider: Shifting back to Vermont for a moment. There doesn’t seem to be any question the sale you made to Kyle and Tom was legal. You showed me the contract and Jack confirmed it was legal. However, I was told it was unlikely they were going to qualify to bring the team into the league.
TV: That is absolutely untrue. The league was very aware of the sale the whole time. Jack knew what was going on and they never said one word about any issues with it. Like i said, Tony was already working with them for the Boston market and was helping them to find an arena, so that’s completely false.
AF Insider: Ok, thanks. So let’s move on to the Havok. Please tell me how that started?
TV: I wanted to get closer to Florida. I wasn’t ready to just sell and give up football. I knew eventually I would find a buyer for Vermont and I knew I would because our attendance was pretty good so I knew I would find a buyer at some point. The Atlanta market came through a friend, Trey Braid, who is also my web guy. He called me about the arena in Buford, Ga. and through market research I knew it was a football area and it looked like a good opportunity. I flew up to Atlanta and I met with the superintendent of schools for the Buford Arena. They own the arena and rent it. It’s a brand new, 5500 seat facility, a perfect size with a beautiful Jumbotron. It doesn’t get any better. If you were going to build the perfect indoor football arena that would be it. The icing on the cake for me was they didn’t have a food vendor in place. Most places have their own contractor vendors that you have to go through and you’re lucky if you get 10% of that. Since they didn’t have anything in place I asked about food and beverage and they said you do it. I asked if they would allow me to do beer/alcohol sales and they said yeah, you’re just renting the building. I said holy crap, now I own 100% of the food and beverage? Ok, now we’re really on to something here. Most people are trying to sell tickets for $10-$15 and try to get 2000 people in the door to make twenty grand. I could give away every single ticket, put 4000 people in there and still make $12 per head just selling beer. It really was a no-brainer and that’s how I ended up in that market and in that building.
AF Insider: How was the AAL involved in this? Jack Bowman said he had been down there and saw the facility and knew that was a place you really needed to be. Was he involved in the negotiation?
TV: No, I did all the negotiating, Jack introduced me to one of my partners, Chris Duffy. He was a sponsor in Jacksonville. He had contacted the league about possibly putting a team somewhere, so Jack made the introduction and we later became partners in Atlanta.
AF Insider: I have to ask some questions that may be kind of sensitive, so if they sound insulting I apologize ahead of time.
TV: No worries
AF Insider: Thanks. What I’ve been told is that you had put money into an account specifically for concerts and then the money wasn’t there when it came time to pay the artists or…
TV: Yeah, I can’t comment on any of that. I will tell you that if it didn’t come from ownership whoever told you would have no clue because it wouldn’t have been discussed with them anyway.
AF Insider: No, it didn’t come from management, but the idea that there was money in a bank account that disappeared, can you comment on it?
TV: Upon leaving the Havoc, I signed a contract, both sides did, to not discuss any details, especially the financial side of the business so I can’t comment on anything like that.
AF Insider: As full disclosure, I did speak with Chris Duffy and he said the exact same thing. He gave the same basic boilerplate answer the AAL gave when you left there. He said the decision to part ways was mutual, there was a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in place and he wished you nothing but the best of luck in the future.
TV: The main reason for leaving the Havoc was basically the same family reasons for leaving Vermont. I was in the Buford area full time as early as September. People seem to think running a football team is easy, but it’s a major task. I had very little to no support there. There were people who were supposed to be doing things, but I had no support. I was doing everything by myself, it was all on my shoulders and it was very stressful. I was already working at 7am and my phone was still ringing at 9 and 10 o’clock at night even when I was home. It’s very difficult to have any kind of family life and I’ve barely had any time with my daughter who just now is 11 months old. When the opportunity presented itself for me to step away from the league and the football team, it was just very attractive. It was a personal decision and the door opened for me to step away and have a clean break. I am going to be doing more racing this year and I want to focus more on that. Also, my wife and I are buying a house sometime in the fall so I’m looking forward to spending some family time now and that was the main reason. Chris Duffy and Heath Tate, those are great guys and I never have anything negative to say about those guys. They’re super supportive, super good guys and they stepped up and said hey, we have no problem running this so the opportunity presented itself for me to walk away and they were happy to take the bull by the horns so it worked out for everybody.
AF Insider: And yet there is still this Non Disclosure Agreement? Can you shed any light on why you guys decided on an NDA without talking about the content of the agreement?
TV: Yes. It was a mutual decision agreed upon by both parties. The arena football world is a small world and if somebody walks away or chooses to do something different it goes all over the web and there’s speculation on social media, oh he’s a thief or he’s this or that and it’s just non-stop, I mean you know how it is. So it was a mutual decision to do an NDA to not talk about it and I think it’s better for the overall image of the entire organization. They’re not going anywhere, they’re going to be there for a long time and they’re very successful, they’re 7-0 now. I’ll be there June 30th to support those guys. I personally recruited almost every player that’s there and when they’re playing for the championship on June 30th, most likely against Richmond, I’m going to go and watch and root for those guys.
AF Insider: You’re right about the speculation, it’s everywhere and most of it is, well, let’s say, unflattering.
AF Insider: Now that you’re out of football, what is in your future?
TV: I don’t know what the future holds. I’m going to take this year off for sure, but I don’t know, maybe I’ll come back at some point and do another team. You never know.
AF Insider: Aside from your football future, what do you see happening in the sport in general
TV: I will say this, if the talk and rumors I’m hearing are true, I don’t think there’s going to be an AAL next year. It’s just my opinion. I think Cape Fear is going to restart the Supreme Indoor Football League. In fact, I know they are. The Richmond owner has already expressed on the forums several times that he’s starting his own league. From what I understand he has to leave Richmond anyway, so he’s looking at the Louisville, Kentucky market for transferring his team, but he’s talking about adding five new teams as part of his league. I think it will be interesting to see what happens.
AF Insider: Tim, I appreciate your time
TV: Sure, and thank you.
AF Insider reached out to the Richmond Roughriders and asked if they were moving the team to Louisville. Owner Gregg Fornario said the team remaining in Richmond is contingent upon the Richmond Coliseum remaining open for the 2019 season. If the demolition of the building takes place in December as is forcasted the team will have little choice but to move. The City of Richmond, Virginia is scheduled to make the decision sometime in June of 2018.